Should You Ever Replace a Saul Bass Logo?


Saul Bass. While the famed graphic designer is best known for creating some of film’s most beloved opening titles (see: The Man with the Golden Arm, North by Northwest, Vertigo, Psycho, West Side Story, and Goodfellas) he was also responsible for dreaming up a handful of iconic logos for brands like AT&T, Continental Airlines, and the Girl Scouts. In fact, as Christian Annyas points out, the average lifespan of a Bass-designed logo is 34 years — which is pretty impressive in the grand scheme of things. So, did the companies who decided to ditch his designs make a wise decision? Click through, as we investigate.

AT&T – Saul Bass (1983) vs Interbrand (2005)

When the government forced AT&T to break up in the ’80s, Bass was asked to work the same logo magic that he had for Bell back in 1969; the globe was meant to signal the company’s new global focus, while the white shading emphasized its North American roots. The 2005 redesign isn’t incredibly different from the original, other than the fact that it is new, but as Design Observer’s Michael Bierut wrote at the time, “Bass’s AT&T mark has one advantage over anything that will replace it: It already exists… Anything new will surrender all that equity, return to square one, and compete for attention with all those other telecom marks out there.”

CONTINENTAL – Saul Bass (1968) vs Onoma Design (1991)

Bass’s “jetstream” logo helped Continental become one of the most recognizable airlines of the ’70s — he wanted to project an image that was “high tech,” “friendly,” and “large.” While we get what Onoma Design was going for with the “global” update, the end result is both more generic and less memorable.

DIXIE – Saul Bass (1969) vs Unknown (2000s)

Bass’s graphic Dixie logo manages to be playful and classic at the same time — kind of like a Marimekko print. Add some color, italicize the text, and turn the whole thing on its head (literally), and the end result is a lot less mod, and a lot more cheesy.

QUAKER – Saul Bass (1971) vs Wallace Church (2010)

While we prefer Bass’s stylized, monochromatic version of Mr. Quaker, the latest version of the ever-evolving logo (complete with trendy Archer typeface) isn’t half bad; we’re just not sure what he’s doing hanging out inside of the ‘Q.’

YWCA – Saul Bass (1988) vs Landor SF (2004)

The YWCA came to Landor because they felt that the Bass’s logo was “outdated and did not reflect the current YWCA’s spirit and purpose.” What they wanted was “a new identity that would more effectively communicate the organization’s mission.” Apparently all it took was some bold, lowercase letters and the color orange.